Billy Apple, <i>The Given as an Art-Political Statement: Alterations (Completed 20 February 1980)</i>, 1980, installation image, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection. Image: Sam Hartnett.

Billy Apple, The Given as an Art-Political Statement: Alterations (Completed 20 February 1980), 1980, installation image, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection. Image: Sam Hartnett.

"Apple Cart Upset. You Have to Laugh"

06 Sep 2021

So said the headline of the editorial in the Taranaki Daily News on 2 October 1975, in response to Billy Apple’s Neon Accumulation, 1968, exhibited on a back staircase of the Gallery.

The work – a scattering of broken neon tubing and elements, with a few complete and working letters (which according to some accounts could have spelt out an unsavoury word), drew the ire of both the community and the local fire brigade - the stairs were a fire escape.

So started the Govett-Brewster’s relationship with Billy Apple which continues beyond Billy’s passing.

The relationship will live on indefinitely with Apple’s work The Given As An Art-political Statement, Alterations (Completed 20 February 1980). The work, a widening of the upper staircase of the Gallery is both permanent fixture and fitting remembrance: an analysis of the space inhabited by the art world, and an amendment to it that leaves us questioning what came before.

Sharing the story of that work delights our visitors to this day, and as the Taranaki Daily News reported in 1975, we have if not to laugh, then at least to smile.

Vale Billy Apple. Your legacy as an artist has been to upset the apple cart, forever.

Sharing the story of that work delights our visitors to this day, and as the Taranaki Daily News reported in 1975, we have if not to laugh, then at least to smile.

Billy Apple, <i>The Given as an Art-Political Statement: Alterations (Completed 20 February 1980)</i>, 1980, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection.

Billy Apple, The Given as an Art-Political Statement: Alterations (Completed 20 February 1980), 1980, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection.